Tough new sentence for knife offences

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Offenders caught carrying knives will face three-month jail sentences and larger fines, under tougher sentences revealed in a confidential Home Office letter obtained by the Independent, writes Jason Bennetto.

The stiffer penalties are expected to be included in a forthcoming White Paper on sentencing and come after the murder of the headmaster Philip Lawrence, who was stabbed to death outside his school in London.

Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, wants to increase the present penalties on carrying "an article with a blade or point in a public place", which carries a maximum fine of pounds 1,000.

Under the proposals, which have the backing of police chiefs, prison sentences of up to three months and maximum fines of pounds 2,400 are to be introduced for knife-carrying offences.

Pupils returned to St George's school, in Maida Vale, north-west London, yesterday for the first day since the fatal stabbing on Friday. Cardinal Basil Hume conducted mass at the Roman Catholic school and counsellors helped children cope with their grief.

Stiffer penalties, page 4